Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Teacher Files Harassment Claim against Vice Principal

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Teacher Files Harassment Claim against Vice Principal

Article excerpt

PATERSON -- A teacher at School 6 filed a criminal harassment complaint against a vice principal this week, an action that some parents and educators say reflects broader problems stemming from recent efforts to improve one of the state's worst-performing schools.

In the complaint, filed in Paterson Municipal Court on Monday, the teacher, Myesha McMillan, accuses Vice Principal Tyisha Bennett of invading her personal space, causing her to "feel threatened and intimidated" and speaking to her in a "threatening tone."

Last week, about two dozen staff members from School 6 met with union leadership to discuss objections to the way the new principal, Shonda Davis, and her deputies treat teachers, and a parent who used to be a secretary in the school's parent organization said she resigned because of frustration with the new management.

Superintendent Donnie Evans hired Davis from Newark's Barringer High School last summer in an attempt to boost student achievement at School 6, which is in danger of being taken over by the state if test scores do not rise.

Evans allowed Davis to bring along two vice principals from Barringer -- Bennett and Jasonn Denard -- and he set salaries for all three higher than those of their counterparts at any other school in Paterson.

"They don't know how to talk to parents," said Cora Dunbar, whose 6-year-old son attends the school. A former secretary in the parents organization, Dunbar said she stepped down because of what she described as the new administrator's demeaning attitude. Four months ago, Dunbar attended Davis' get-acquainted community meeting and she said at that time that she was hopeful the new principal would bring improvement.

In response to an inquiry about complaints by parents and staff, Evans issued a brief statement. "School 6 is our lowest-performing school in the district," he said. "As a result, we have hired a high- performing team to transform this school, and it is to be expected that some people will not immediately embrace the changes being made."

Evans expressed confidence in the School 6 administrators but said the district would attempt to resolve legitimate complaints.

Assistant Superintendent Aubrey Johnson had already met with one parent who had complaints, and Johnson and school leaders spoke with a union representative "to ensure that specific concerns of the union were also being addressed," said district spokeswoman Terry Corallo. …

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